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Northeast Ohio boards of elections report low turnout so far for August 2 primary

Vote painted on the wall at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
Early in-person voting continues until August 1 at county boards of elections.

Early voting for the Aug. 2 primary has been slow so far and county boards of elections are expecting low turnout overall for the unusual summer election.

Early in-person and absentee voting began on July 6. In Cuyahoga County, only 315 people have voted in person as of Friday, July 15. According to the board of elections primary election profile, 27,591 vote-by-mail ballots have been requested so far, amounting to 3% of registered Cuyahoga County voters.

In Summit County, 1,741 ballots have been cast so far, with over 1,300 of them submitted through the mail, according to the Summit Board of Elections.

Primary races for Ohio House and Senate seats are on the August 2 ballot, after the Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to submit constitutional maps in time for the primary that took place May 3.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four different sets of maps as unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, but in May a federal three judge panel ordered the state to implement the third set of maps and to hold a primary in August. The same maps will also be used in the November general election.

Early voting begins Wednesday for Ohio's second primary of 2022. The races for Ohio House and Senate seats were pushed back from the normal May primary date because of disagreements over new district maps.

Boards of elections across Northeast Ohio have been working to make their communities aware of the unusual primary election.

In Cuyahoga County, the board of elections sent a voter guide with information on how to vote to all households with registered voters in the county, said board spokesman Mike West.

Ross McDonald, director at the Lake County Board of Elections, said he has been working with local media outlets to spread the word about the election.

“Our local newspaper, The News Herald, they will come in during the early voting period to get some quotes about how turnout has been so far,” he said. “We had our local government reporter in a couple weeks ago before the commencement of early voting, and I’m sure that he will be in once again during the early voting period to get an update on how turnout is.”

Despite these efforts, McDonald predicts a noticeable drop in voters compared to the May primary. West expects 15-20% of registered voters in Cuyahoga County to vote.

“It’s always a challenge to get high turnout in a primary election,” West said. “And it’s more of a challenge when the election is held in the summer when a lot of people are distracted by vacations and getting ready to go back to school.”

This is the second August primary for Cuyahoga County voters in as many years. Last year, the board held a special election to nominate candidates to fill the seat of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge after she became U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The August 2021 and May 2022 primaries in Cuyahoga County each saw more than 5,000 people vote early in person. But more people cast mail-in ballots in August 2021 – over 5% of registered voters – compared to May of this year when just over 3% opted to vote by mail.

Early in-person voting at county boards of elections continues through August 1:

July 18-22: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
July 25-29: 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
July 30: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
July 31: 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
August 1: 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Registered voters can request an absentee ballot until noon on July 30.

Residents can find their new legislative districts on the Ohio Secretary of State's website.

Both Cuyahoga and Lake counties are still hiring poll workers for Election Day, West and McDonald said.

“It would be doing something new, it’s a civic duty, and we give you a paycheck when it’s all done,” McDonald said. “So if you have a charity or a cause that you’re trying to raise money for, becoming a poll worker is one way to raise money.”

Braedon Olsen is a high school intern from University School, where he is a rising senior. He has worked for two years with University School’s newspaper, The University School News, both as a staff writer and as an Editor-in-Chief. Braedon is also a diehard Cleveland sports fan and an avid stat junkie.